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North vs. South: The 'Yuppies' and 'Bubbas' of Austin are divided by more than Lady Bird Lake

The music scene in south Austin contrasts the North, where tech and large-scale shopping centers like The Domain thrive. (Laura Figi/Austonia)

In 1987, North and South Austinites put their differences to the test as they met on opposite banks of what was then called Town Lake for an epic tug-of-war competition, where more than a hundred "Bubbas" of South Austin, the so-called "auto parts capital of the world," met with the "Yuppies," who were known by the South as "wine-sipping, quiche-eater pantywaists."

More than 30 years later after the ripped T-shirt Bubbas dragged their suit and tie Northern foes into the water, Lady Bird Lake separates two very different cultures within the capital.

While South Austin is known for its "weird" Austin atmosphere and ties to the music and food culture, North Austin is often viewed as Austin's center for big tech, bigger corporations and swaths of young professionals.

With iconic South Congress and Zilker Park on their side, South Austinites claim to reside in the cultural hotbed of the city, where Austin's reputation as the "Live Music Capital of the World" earns its merit.

Cody O'Dell, a real estate agent and comedian who grew up in Austin, said that his current South Central neighborhood is a lingering remnant of a former Austin.

"I feel like South Central's where you really see the DNA of the city of Austin," O'Dell said. "It embodies that kind of 'Keep Austin Weird' vibe."

Cody O'Dell says South Austin, where he lives, still has a sense of old Austin.

Meanwhile, 24-year-old Matt DeMario, who grew up in Round Rock but has had his taste of many different Austins, is a North Austinite through and through.

DeMario boils the division down to two words: hippie vs. tech. He also said development hasn't transformed South Austin in the same way it has up North.

"One of the interesting distinctions is South Austin hasn't been gentrified, but the North has," DeMario said. "It's the old Austin hippie vibe versus new Austin tech."

Matt Myers is president of the North Austin Civic Association. He has seen his neck of the woods transform around him.

Myers set his roots in Austin more than 30 years ago and bought a North Austin home for $88,000 in 1992. Since then, he's seen large-scale developments including the Mueller planned development and The Domain, a commercial, retail and residential development, bring big business in. He's been around as the North Austin Tech District attracted Samsung, Apple and other corporations. Now, Myer's home is even within walking distance of Austin FC's new Q2 Stadium.

Myers planned to leave North Austin when his youngest daughter graduated from high school, but he stuck around because of good neighbors, lighter traffic and great entertainment.

"It's just a very attractive part of town to work in, to live in, to be entertained in," Myers said. "I've really earned a respect for the people who live here that are passionate about our neighborhoods and want to see them improve."

The Domain

The Domain combines living, working and playing in a sprawling, high-end North Austin city center. (Shutterstock)

River Park

The controversial River Park development is due to open in phases over the next two decades. (Sasaki)

New developments are crowding South Austin, however, and Myers thinks the South could eventually mirror the North. A Domain-style development, River Park, is in the works on East Riverside as Tesla and Oracle move nearby, and South Congress's new Music Lane is drawing even more interest to the cultural hub. Still, DeMario thinks that development will be skewed North "for the foreseeable future."

O'Dell, who believes The Domain is the "antithesis of what Austin is supposed to be about," doesn't welcome the change.

"I feel like the South is fighting that existential battle with the North over the corporate behemoths' influence of big tech and all the shifts that come with that," O'Dell said. "It's the struggle of Austin to keep its cultural identity."

Both are united on one front, however. Skyrocketing housing prices on both sides of the river are driving people out, and eventually, the North/South division could be between Round Rock and Buda as newcomers leave Austin for less expensive housing.

"Those city vibes... (some people) aren't really interested or care about that," O'Dell said. "They're just looking for affordable living."


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